Have you ever wondered if there is something beyond what you experience with your five senses every day? Beyond bills and dishes and to-do lists, is there a deeper reality we’ve become blinded to?
I don’t know about you, but I love minor chords in music – those sounds where a tension is felt, but you know that the tension is leading to a release. There is hope in the middle of that felt tension.
Every day, I feel this tension between the urgent, in-my-face things and the deep longing of my soul for more. Earth is this beautiful tension between the physical and spiritual realms where we can experience both to a degree right now. Just as a shadow reveals to us something of the substance making the shadow, so does this physical existence reveal to us something of the kingdom of heaven reality. We live in the shadow, but can sense the substance on this side of life.
The Sacred Shadow is an invitation to enter into the daily mystery of God’s kingdom…within these pages you will find windows to see into the reality of God’s present kingdom. Click HERE for more information. WATCH HERE…
Have you ever felt overwhelmed and underwhelmed at the same time? Overwhelmed with tasks. Underwhelmed by God’s presence.
Perhaps this best sums up the past several months for me.
Since October, a mere four months ago, we have been in an accident which totaled our car and led to the need for physical therapy since, faced the passings of two family members, crossed the country by car twice to be near family in this difficult time, my husband and I have agreed on his making a transition to a new company, experienced new growth in our publishing company, keeping us on our toes and busy, and then there has been life to live in the midst (homeschooling, home projects, and the like).
In our nation, a new President took office. Awareness (and opinions) of the refugee crisis erupted again. Women pitted against women in the disagreement of “choice” and life. Protests and riots and loud mouths have prevailed. Not that I’ve personally noticed much of this with my head in the proverbial sand. I’ve watched practically no news. Engaged in practically no social media. Kept my thoughts to myself for some time, relying upon a few close friends to keep me abreast of the happenings.
In the face of such life extremes, have you ever wanted to hide? To go back to a time when simplicity reigned. When right and wrong were easily distinguished. When simply sharing a word could be taken at face value rather than receiving immediate backlash laced with offense? When perspectives were clear, untainted by tragedy and cynicism?
These recent months have left me feeling a sense of distance from my Creator, the Lover of my soul. Not due to any bitterness or blaming on my part. Rather, the race of busy, the tyranny of the urgent has often stolen the selah of silence. And, even more, it’s easy to lose sight of His nearness when you are struggling to survive the day.
Perspective is a powerful thing.
We are now into February, but I’ll let you know that I wrestled through December and January to seek my word for the year. Deeper than a New Year’s resolution, I needed a lens to view the world through – fresh for this season. Ultimately, the Lord clarified His word for me (rather than my word for myself)…
Viewing everything – myself, my family, my marriage, my struggles, the world, other people – through this lens of God’s kingdom. This kingdom which John the Baptist made the way for and Jesus ushered in. This kingdom which seems upside-down in its realities and truths. This kingdom which emphasizes the unseen over the seen.
This lens helps me see anew: Where is God in this?
Where is He when our loved ones die? Where is He when those left behind reel with grief and pain? Where is He when daily decisions press in and pull down? Where is He when our nation turns, brother against brother? Where is He when a people no longer grasp righteousness or purity or brotherhood or patriotism or selflessness? Where is He when I’ve failed, yet again, as a woman, a wife, a mom, a friend?
I am Jacob, wrestling with God through the night, desperate for His blessing, longing for His touch.
In the face of pain and loss, disagreement and uncertainty, chaos and struggle stay desperate. May we not seek answers. May we seek the kingdom – that realm of reality where God is King. King above kings. King above circumstance. King above fear. King above all self-focus.
“…[Jesus] cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out.’ The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go.'” John 11:43-44 (ESV)
My husband and I stood at an impasse. He longed to move ahead with adoption. I wanted no more than the two kids we already had. My mind was made up after waffling for years.
It hadn’t always been that way. Steve and I had long envisioned a house filled with both biological and adopted children.
But a diagnosis struck during my second pregnancy, making any future attempts potentially deadly. Two kids, 16 months apart, the stress of two in diapers, two potty training, two requiring so much of me while I still reeled from a life-changing diagnosis – I came to believe even one more would be too much. Our dream needed to be buried.
Guilt pressed me. I longed for Steve to understand, to realize that the blessings we already had were enough, to grasp that anything more could push my health over the edge and literally kill me.
And so we lived for several years – teetering between our original dream he refused to release, all the while loving me completely, and the dream I’d placed in the ground and grieved. Disunity gnawed. Fear held me back from nakedly approaching God to hear His heart.
A friend watched my children one day so I could get some work done. After just a couple of hours on my own, I felt the Lord stirring me, drawing me near. It was my lunch break, but food was the last thing on my mind.
Walking to the center of my silent living room, I hit my knees, tears slipping down my face. I finally had the courage to ask the question I’d avoided for so long: “Lord, what’s holding me back from adopting?” His response was swift, kind and loving, yet holding nothing back.
“Fear. And your distrust that I will take care of everything.”
His words struck like a pinprick in my heart, piercing the deepest parts of who I am. A question hovered in that thin place: Would I continue to be ruled by fear, or would I choose to trust Him completely?
In a span of minutes, the buried dream came to life. Everything I’d known five minutes earlier fell away, adamant refusal transformed into exhilarated longing.
When my husband came home, I laid out my resurrection story, giving him the gift of a wife who refused to cower before fear. God performed a miracle before our eyes – hearts reunified, vision restored, hope uplifted.
The Lord knows where our children are. He’ll put all things together in His perfect timing. He’s got this. After all, He’s still raising the dead to life.
Is there a dream you’ve buried? Are you willing to place it before the Lord?
We’d only been dating for three weeks, but Steve had already figured out he was going to marry me. I, on the other hand, was more practical than that. In a few months, I’d be moving to a new city in a new state, a thousand miles away from him. It would be too hard. It was doomed to fail before it began. I was so certain.
It was time to say goodbye. (Continue Reading)
Today, I’m over at Single Matters looking at the impact fear makes on our lives. I almost let fear ruin one of the best things in my life. Are you letting fear make the decisions in your life?
Sitting easy at a coffee shop, hugging the warmth of my cup, struggling to know where to begin when the hardness pounds me upon waking. Having opened my eyes to a message of desperation and despair, beginning a day with heartbreak where hope was anticipated, I could pray for so many answers, but the only true answer is Jesus. For my loved ones in the midst of messy custody battles, I hurt, I ache, I pray. I want smoothness and ease and resolution. I want safety and communication and forgiveness. But, most of all, I want Jesus to be on both sides of the wall that now separates. With wars and disease, genocide and slavery everywhere I look, everything I read; with marriages on the rocks and children caught in between; the walls stand tall, seeming to grow each day, between the sides and differing perspectives.
When I look around, I see heartache and very real, very intense pain. I see children abused, ripped from the only families they know, and oftentimes returned to the place where the abuse first occurred. I see little ones used as pawns in domestic disputes. I see the depth of pain when the color of skin divides. I see the hardened hearts, attempting to protect themselves from further attack. I see the disillusioned and the bitter.
Can we look just beyond? Can the eyes of our hearts – covered by the rubble left from a lifetime of battles – can they begin to see again?
There was a time when life and knowledge grew on trees and we could see them. There was a time when the sound of rustling leaves we heard was the swinging legs of the Almighty walking in the Garden – where physical and spiritual met, where our eyes could perceive with equal clarity the physical items before us as well as the spiritual. This time will come again.
“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations…And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.” (Revelation 22:1-2, 5)
While the hurt and broken and disillusioned may feel stuck like a pawn in the middle of God’s twisted game, the truth is just beyond. God isn’t pushing us around on a giant chess board. He’s never wanted control of robotic, unfeeling, disconnected pawns. He longs for mutual love, which is a choice, which can never be forced. So the choices we make and the choices other imperfect humans make are what move us. Some of those humans listen to the truth of God, some listen to lies of the enemy, but each one directly intertwines with and affects others.
Those things we ask for – clarity, justification, revenge, the upholding of our cause – those things, themselves, aren’t the answers. The answer is freedom. “Freedom is when you engage the presence of God and become the person you are created and redeemed to be.” (Bob Hamp)
And freedom is found in truth.
And truth is found in Christ.
In a relationship, not a religion or a set of rules.
In intimate knowing, not intellectual ascent.
Adam and Eve looked upon life dangling from a tree branch. Jews and Romans alike stood looking up at the Source of life hanging on a tree. And all forsook life in favor of a lie. Their intentions weren’t to seek out death. The lie appeared to them to be wisdom.
What brokenness to do you face today? What heartache and uncertain thing? Without a doubt, the enemy will take that difficulty, that pain, and give you his interpretation, full of lies. Will you listen?
Or, will you choose to believe that God has a word about that very same situation? Will you step out and hear the truth He’s speaking? Will you choose His life over the lie?
“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you build tombs for the prophets your ancestors killed, and you decorate the monuments of the godly people your ancestors destroyed. Then you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would never have joined them in killing the prophets.’ “But in saying that, you testify against yourselves that you are indeed the descendants of those who murdered the prophets.
– Matthew 23:29-31 NLT
The Pharisees and Sadducees, the most powerful religious leaders of their day, admit their ancestors are known for killing prophets. They swear they would have never done such things – yet they murder the very Messiah they await. What came before the killing? They believed a lie.
When we believe a lie, we are capable of doing what we once thought we could never do.
Satan is a liar, and has always been. He knows that the most effective way to get you to do something you know to be wrong, is to get you to believe that it’s not. Deceiving a group of religious leaders and telling them a mere man claims to be God incarnate plants the seed of murder in their minds. Even though they know and have sworn that they themselves would never kill a prophet of God, the seed has been planted and is sprouting evil.
If we want to be about God’s business, we need to seek Him first, seek to know His thoughts and His opinions. God alone has the power to break lies off of you, reveal the truth, and throw those lies in the pit of Hell forever. He deeply loves you and wants to talk with you about all things…even the seemingly small details.
What lies are you believing that justify a behavior you know is wrong?
The act of sinning is different than sin itself. Much like telling the truth is different than truth, living is different from life and dying is different from death.
For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ. Romans 5:17 NLT
The essence of sin, not just the result, is death. When Adam performed the act of sinning he opened himself and the world to the essence and root behind the act: death. The act of sinning is simply doing something outside or defiantly against the will of God. The root behind it, death, is simply the absence of God, the source of life itself.
If God is the source of all life, when we choose to reject God from even the smallest part of our life, we are replacing His life within us with death. Whether it is our will, our eyes, our finances, our time, or anything else, that aspect of our life becomes dead. Death, like cancer, can spread aggressively, influencing other choices and beliefs. And, before we know it, we have believed lie after lie after lie, kicking our God and Creator out of our life.
If the removal of life causes death to enter, the entry of life causes death to be no more. That’s what Christ came to take care of. He chose to come to this earth not only to bear the burden of our sins (the actions), but to replace the root, the essence of death we have welcomed into our lives. He breaks through, revealing lies through His truth, and restores the death within us with the life of the Creator.
Have you had your Jesus today? Have you had His Truth and Love poured over your life today?
God I yield myself to you; please replace the death in me. Please continue to point out what areas of my life do not reflect or honor You. Please infiltrate those areas with Your grace, love, mercy, and LIFE. Thank you for being The Source of Life and caring about me enough to share it with me.
Living is the process of letting life flow through you. Ask Him how you can share Him with someone today!
“Felling”: To cut or break down…
So let’s talk about feelings. Specifically about one great lie this world tells us: Following your heart is the key to living successfully.
In our vernacular, we consider that our thoughts originate in our minds and our feelings originate in our hearts. Some of us may try to be smart in making our decisions by thoughtfully processing the pros and cons. But there are those times, quite often, when our feelings direct our decisions rather than the other way around.
Okay…I’m a woman. I have feelings…lots of them. All the time. And, usually, I have no trouble expressing them. Neither does my daughter or my best friend or the members in my women’s Bible study. We feel things deeply. And that is wonderful! That is designed. That is as it should be. We are not machines made to live life in complete objectivity.
But, the problem comes when we believe the lie that our feelings are reliable guides, that they can be trusted. Feelings ebb and flow like the tide, varying with a change as drastically as a pendulum on a ticking clock.
When embarking on a dangerous journey, to unknown places, it is wise to follow a guide to ensure you arrive safely where you intended to go. But our feelings don’t always point us in the same direction, much less the right one. Feelings just aren’t reliable guides to help us get anywhere safely.
So, if feelings are so unpredictable and unstable, what could they be good for? Feelings are horrible guides, but they can be excellent indicators.
Feelings communicate that something is happening. They tell us something about how people or circumstances affect us. But they do a terrible job of guiding us to successfully respond.
When I feel angry or offended or saddened, there’s something going on that needs to be addressed. It’s so much easier, and definitely tempting, to try and escape those feelings…to grab that novel…to pick up the remote…to lose myself in a project. But denying the presence of those feelings doesn’t deny the presence of a problem. It merely postpones healing.
This season I’m in is full of feelings, many of them not so pleasant. But, I’ve been glossing over many of them for so long, that if I don’t hand them over to a trustworthy God, I may do permanent damage to my heart or the hearts of those around me.
So, when I feel offended, or hurt, or looked-over, I’m now seeing that perhaps it isn’t so much about what the other person should do to fix it, but that it’s more about me entrusting my heart and all its indicators over to God. I need to hear His plan, His truth, to be willing to open up areas I’ve closed off or hardened. I need to stop the escape and be willing to do the work, which may be hard and painful, but will certainly yield far better results than my tendency to “follow my heart.”
Are you following your feelings in some area of your life? If so, how’s that working out? Are you willing to take note of your feelings, while still choosing to trust God to provide your truth? Are you ready to “fell” the lie of following your feelings and, instead, follow His direction?